- Associated Press - Friday, September 25, 2015

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - A preliminary report has found that a floatplane struck the surface of a lake before crashing into a nearby, tree-covered hillside, killing three men on a fishing trip.

The cause of the crash, however, is still unknown.

The National Transportation Safety Board also said in the report released Thursday that the de Havilland DHC-3 turbine Otter took off in the dark at about 6 a.m. Sept. 15 from East Wind Lake, near the tiny southwest Alaska town of Iliamna, about 175 miles southwest of Anchorage. The plane, which crashed into tundra among trees, belonged to the Rainbow King Lodge, a local fishing lodge.

Killed in the crash were 80-year-old Tony W. Degroot of Hanford, California; 70-year-old James P. Fletcher of Clovis, California; and 69-year-old James Specter of Shavertown, Pennsylvania. Four others - including the 54-year-old pilot, John Furnia of Covington, New York, sustained serious injuries. Two other passengers had minor injuries.

According to the preliminary report, the Otter was transporting sport-fishing clients and guides to a remote salmon fishing spot for the day. A lodge employee who drove the party to the lake said it was dark but he was still able to watch the plane take off, begin to climb, then descend until the floats struck the surface of the water.



The worker told investigators the plane then became airborne. The report says the worker lost sight of the Otter as it went down behind rising terrain covered with trees.

Asked if the plane could have been overloaded, NTSB Alaska chief Clint Johnson said it’s something investigators are looking at, both in terms of weight and balance.

“There’s nothing definitive at this point right now,” he said.

A final report on the crash is expected within one year.

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This story was corrected to clarify that all 10 on board were not tourists.

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Follow Rachel D’Oro at https://twitter.com/rdoro

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